The Royals were far from contention this year, but the goal is to eventually be one of those teams competing in October for a title. Teams have pursued a championship many different ways, but comments this week by Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto highlighted one of the approaches taken by his club.
In his comments to the media following a disappointing season where the Mariners just missed the playoffs, Dipoto preached patience with the fanbase.
“We’re actually doing the fanbase a favor by asking for their patience to win the World Series while we continue to build a sustainably good roster,”
He went on to explain his strategy for winning a pennant in Seattle.
“If you go back and you look in a decade, those teams that win 54% of the time always wind up in the postseason. And they, more often than not, wind up in the World Series. So there’s your bigger picture process. Nobody wants to hear the goal this year is, ‘We’re going to win 54% of the time.’ Because sometimes 54% is — one year, you’re going to win 60%, another year you’re going to win 50%. It’s whatever it is. But over time, that type of mindset gets you there ... If what you’re doing is focusing year-to-year on, ‘what do we have to do to win the World Series this year?’ You might be one of the teams that’s laying in the mud and can’t get up for another decade.”
His comments brought criticism from some fans who are tired of waiting for the first title in Mariners history. Dipoto’s strategy also came at odds with Seattle catcher Cal Raleigh, who expressed his frustration on falling short at the end of the season.
“We’ve got to commit to winning, we have to commit to going and getting those players you see other teams going out and getting — big time pitchers, getting big-time hitters. We have to do that to keep up.”
He used the Texas Rangers - who spent $700 million on free agents the last two off-seasons - as a contrast to the approach the Mariners took.
“Anytime you can add, I mean look over in [Texas’] locker room right there, they’ve added more than anybody else and look where it got them,” Raleigh said after Saturday’s season-ending loss. “There’s more than one way to skin a cat, that’s for sure. But going out and getting those big names, people who have done it, people who have been there, people who are leaders, people who have shown time and time again that they can be successful in this league is definitely what would help this clubhouse.”
The Rangers easily swept the Rays and will play the Astros in the American League Divisional Series.
Royals owner John Sherman also emphasized a sustainable approach when he dismissed Dayton Moore and tabbed J.J. Picollo to run the organization.
“The objective is to return to form, to compete for a championship on behalf of our great fans, to be playing meaningful baseball at this time of year. Our objective that can compete consistently and on a sustainable basis.”
He has talked a lot about avoiding the kind of 106-loss seasons the Royals just experienced in favor of a more sustainable approach, similar to what the Rays have done. Tampa Bay has had winning seasons in 12 of the last 16 seasons, and have only lost 85+ games once over that time. They have done so despite one of the lowest payrolls in the league, through smart drafting and development, shrewd moves, and trading players at the peak of their value.
The Rays’ approach, while very successful in the regular season, has still yet to produce a championship. And while there may be several reasons why the team struggles to bring in fans despite their success, continually trading away star players for a more sustainable approach may also alienate fans who want identifiable players to root for.
That runs anathema to the approach taken under Moore, who wanted to develop a core together that fans could identify with, and could gel to become a championship club, as they did in 2015. He put all his chips in to make a push in 2013, spending his prospect capital to acquire James Shields, and convincing ownership to increase spending to bring in free agents like Edinson Volquez, Kendrys Morales, Jason Vargas, Alex Rios, and Omar Infante. That resulted in a championship, but it also left the club in a sorry state in the aftermath once the core of that team departed.
In his presser to end the season, J.J. Picollo talked about getting to a point where the team could win 80-85 games. In this division, that gives you a shot of contending, and in the post-season anything can happen. Giving yourself several “bites at the apple” increases the chances one of those years everything goes right and you can make a post-season run. But perhaps it is also a bit limiting - the team never goes “all in” and acquires the players necessary to get over the top. Will that be enough to defeat a much higher-spending club in the playoffs?
The main priority at this point is just to get better. Before the Royals can even think about the playoffs, they have to dig their way out of the cellar. Going from 56 wins to 76 wins shouldn’t be that difficult. It will more interesting to see how Picollo gets the Royals from 76 wins to the next level. Will he make the hard choices to give the Royals a longer window of contention? Does he trade a Bobby Witt Jr. if it returns prospects that can help the team in the long-run? Or does he build up to Bobby’s last years of club control with increased spending, knowing that it will all be over once he departs?
Which approach do you prefer?
Which approach do you prefer to pursuing a championship?
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